The spot where druids used to play

I promised that I would post more photos from my visit to the village of La Haye-de-Routot in Normandy. This community, just south of the Forêt de Brotonne, would probably have been founded some time around the 10th century by Anglo-Scandinavian settlers. It is likely that the two yew trees, which grow in the church cemetery, were part of the original forest in the area.

The two yews in question, one at 14 metres tall and the other at 16 metres, are estimated to be over 1400 years old and have diameters of over 10 metres each. The church was built in the 13th century, with several reasons given for the yews being retained in what would become the cemetery. One is that the male yews (which both of these are) are extremely toxic to humans and animals. Local farmers would, therefore, have been loathe to graze their livestock on the church grounds. The other was a more spiritual reason. For centuries, dating back to the times of the druids, the yew was a sacred tree used in pagan practices. It is said that the early church often incorporated them in order to assimilate non-believers.

Many old yews are actually hollow inside, as their cores often rot and fall away. In the 19th century, the cavities of our yews became so large that the clergy decided to turn them into places of worship. First, in 1866, the “Chapel of St. Anne” was installed in the eastern yew, followed by the “Oratory of Our Lady of Lourdes,” in the western yew in 1897. Sadly, in 2013, the eastern yew (the one with the chapel) was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide and is now half dead.

Being the end of winter, pretty much everything in the village was closed. We did, though, get some beautiful outdoor photos. It’s well worth the visit in the summer, I imagine.

(Obviously, as usual, you can click on images for larger versions.)